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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Nell Putnam Sigmon, December 13, 1979. Interview H-0143. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Mother dies of the strain of having five sons in WWII

During World War II, Sigmon's mother received local press attention because all but one of her sons had enlisted in the Armed Forces. After her mother had a heart attack in the midst of the war, Sigmon decided that the dual strain of having her sons stationed abroad and having to keep a brave public face caused her death.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Nell Putnam Sigmon, December 13, 1979. Interview H-0143. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Mother died during the War. I had five brothers in the service, and every one of them had to go overseas, and that's when I lost my mother. She was a five-star War mother of this county, and they honored her. Oh, they made so much to-do over her. I think it brought her death faster.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Really?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Oh, she was honored at the Bond rallies and all that stuff. Just too much to-do over her.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You think that really hastened her death?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
I do. I think it had a lot to do with it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did it make her …
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
She just stayed in a nervous tension all the time. And she had a heart attack. She had went to get her eyes checked, and she got back home and she set down. And she started coughing, and I know she began to line() up and get dark. And she was having a heart attack.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were there?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Yes. My daddy and me put her on the bed. And she just kept trying to talk, but yet she didn't. And I called the doctor, and when he got there he said that she had had a heart attack, and her heart was so weak that she couldn't throw it off.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How old was she when she died?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Fifty-five and one day old.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That's not very old.
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Oh. I've got the awfulest bunch of stuff. They even put her picture in the paper and all that stuff, when she was honored and everything. They just made too much to-do over her. Her and another lady. This other lady had four, I believe.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you realize before she died that they were making too much to-do over her?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Yes, I had wrote the boys, and I said, "They're making too much to-do over Mother."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she complain about it?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
No. But you could tell she was just worried to death all the time. And when she died, I could not get one of them home. I went to the Red Cross and just begged them. And they said, "No, we just can't. We're sorry. They're in a War area, and if they would pull them out, probably hundreds of others would get killed."
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did her death affect you?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Oh, my Lord, I just thought I was going to die. Because me and her lived at home. Daddy worked in the shipyard. He knew that he had to do something to get a job, and at that time everything was going to defense work. So Daddy was at the shipyard.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
In Norfolk, Virginia.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you were the only child at home?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Yes. My sister was married, and my brother was married that was left. They both had families, is the reason they didn't go, but they did go to Baltimore to the aircraft plants.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you real close to your mother?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Oh, yes. Mother and me were just… I could have gotten married before the boys all had to leave, but I seen my brothers was going to have to all go, and I couldn't leave my mother. And I didn't want to get married and have that responsibility when I had her, and it was just about all I could do to look after Mother and work, too. And we'd get out and go to see the movies and visit the neighbors and all that stuff. We'd go down to Cleveland County and visit my aunts down there. Mother and her sisters were very close, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have to take care of her? Was she a little bit feeble?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
No, she was as spry as she could be. And she just loved to get out and go shopping. And, too, I did everything I thought was good for her. And I enjoyed getting out, too, because the more we would get out with people, the less time we would have to think about the War. And it was terrible. It was just boys getting killed every day or two.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you really afraid that your brothers were going to get killed?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Oh, yes. The night before she died, I don't know, I had such a terrible feeling. I felt like something was going to happen, and yet you didn't know what. You were just worked up inside. And we hadn't heard from a couple of the boys for several weeks, and that was sort of worrying her, too. Well, that night I went to sleep crying, and the next morning it still wasn't much better. I went to work, and I told the girls, "I've just got a feeling we're going to get some bad news from the boys." And they said, "Why, Nell, don't feel that way about it. Maybe not." But then it was Mother instead of the boys.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you had a feeling ahead of time that something was going to happen.
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had that ever happened to you before, that you sort of had a feeling ahead of time, and then something really did happen?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Yes.